THE COMPLEXITIES of parent-child relationships, family conflicts and rising living costs are some of the hidden factors behind elder abuse being uncovered by Peninsula Community Legal Centre.
“Without adequate education of what constitutes this form of abuse, the perpetrator may be unaware their actions are abusive,” the centre’s legal services director Kate Ross said.
PCLC says that Senior Rights Victoria’s help line data for the past two years points to the fact that 90 per cent of alleged perpetrators of elder abuse were related to the older person; often an adult son or daughter, or estranged ex-partner.
“Part of the reason this form of abuse is under reported is the disbelief that a family member could behave in such a predatory way,” Ms Ross said. “The difficulty of raising the issue with the family member, let alone instigating legal action, is in many cases too much to bear.”
Ms Ross said older people were sometimes alienated and disadvantaged in today’s technology-focused society which “enables the younger generations to have the upper hand”.
“In this environment, older people can be treated with contempt and seen as a waste of space; yet the vast majority of seniors have paid their taxes over many years and contributed much to the lives of their children,” she said.
Ms Ross said PCLC saw elder abuse as a form of family violence, although “risk factors, relationship dynamics and outcomes are unique”.
“The particular nature of the parent-child relationship and how it is affected by external pressure due to family conflict; the rising cost of living, the care needs of the parent, mental and physical issues of the child, can influence elder abuse. A history of family conflict or violence can also affect the parent-child relationship,” Ms Ross said.
Peninsula Community Legal Centre provides free legal advice about family issues, fines and tenancy issues. To make a day or evening appointment at one of its offices at Frankston or Rosebud call 9783 3600 or visit www.pclc.org.au.
WILLS and estates lawyers say they are seeing increasing instances of relatives who are unable to wait to inherit assets from elderly relatives – behaviour that is a small part of the population but a worrying trend for older Australians at risk of elder financial abuse.
Maurice Blackburn national head of wills and estates law Andrew Simpson said key warning signs of elder financial abuse included:
Someone close to the older person attempts to isolate them from family or friends.
Unexpected or quick changes to a will or other legal documents.
Older individuals expressing fear, anxiety, confusion and loss of trust when discussing finances, assets, property.
Money missing from bank accounts or frequent changing of enduring powers of attorney.